Tuesday, September 18, 2001

Remember 9-11-01

Tourism a
shaky leg to stand on

The issue: Hawaii's dependence
on the industry places the state's
economic health on unstable ground.

There's little doubt that Hawaii's anemic economy, so heavily tied to tourism, will suffer because of last week's terrorist attacks. Government and business leaders should search zealously for ways to lessen the effects of what could become the worst crisis ever in worldwide tourism.

In the short term, Governor Cayetano and the Hawaii Tourism Authority must undertake the difficult task of reassuring those with plans to visit that they can come to the islands safely and to encourage others to do so. In the long term, officials, who have paid a lot of lip service in the past to diversifying the state's economy, should earnestly encourage other business enterprises. Putting all our eggs in the fragile tourism basket leaves Hawaii unable to control its own future.

Tourism experts around the world already are describing the attacks as "catastrophic" for the $455 billion-a-year business. The Japan Travel Bureau reports that 9,500 people have already called off trips to the United States and Canada; although there are no estimates of how many of those were headed for the islands, it is certain that a big chunk had planned to come here.

Industry officials here say that Hawaii's distance from the nation's centers of government and commerce provides a perception of safety and that tourists are postponing vacations rather than canceling completely. However, this is no time to sit back and watch. Cayetano was to fly to Japan at the end of this month to reassure travelers, but his meeting with the Japan-Hawaii Economic Council was canceled. The governor should find another forum at which he can deliver his message. The tourism authority and the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau also should develop a campaign to lure both domestic and foreign travelers.

Cayetano is acting prudently in meeting with business leaders this week to map out a plan to provide some stability to the state's economy. But he should also prod creative thinking about shifting economic engines outside of tourism into high gear.

During the Gulf War, Hawaii endured tough times as tourism growth worldwide fell from 2.15 percent in 1990 to 3.2 percent the following year. Although the industry rebounded somewhat in 1992, Hawaii's recovery was slow until last year. With the current crisis expected to continue indefinitely, the tourism picture is likely to remain blurred for some time to come. What is clear is that the state can no longer continue to be a one-trick pony.

Frenzy should not
prompt law changes

The issue: The Bush administration
is preparing a package of legislation aimed
at improving its ability to fight terrorism.

IN its haste to expand the government's ability to wage war against terrorism, Congress should be wary of using a bulldozer where a spade will suffice. Changes in the law are needed to fully equip the Justice Department to peer into the cells of the terrorist network, but a panic-driven overhaul that would undermine America's freedoms is not warranted.

Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller have asked for swift action on legislation they are preparing. Ashcroft says federal law-enforcement agencies have more effective tools to employ against organized crime and gambling than they have to combat terrorists.

For example, suspicion of terrorism is not a legally valid reason for a wiretap; it should be. Also, wiretaps can be authorized only for specific telephone numbers instead of particular people who are the focus of an investigation. That makes no sense in an age of cellular and disposable phones.

Also, Ashcroft will ask Congress to stiffen the penalties for helping terrorists -- now a five-year prison term -- to the level of those for helping people involved in espionage. That may be justified as long as terrorism is clearly defined to fit the kind of anarchistic network of violence responsible for last week's attack and not to gun clubs or anti-abortion groups with fanatical members.

The Senate last Thursday quickly added an amendment to a spending bill that would allow agencies to track suspects' communications on the Internet without having to obtain multiple search warrants. The measure should undergo careful scrutiny before final approval to make sure it doesn't infringe on the privacy of innocent Web surfers.

Some officials have suggested incorrectly that changes in the law are needed to allow the CIA to recruit unsavory people as agents. There are no such constraints. CIA guidelines require only that field officers obtain approval from headquarters before establishing a connection with a person who has engaged in human-rights abuses or other disreputable activity. Such a request has never been rejected, according to CIA spokesman Bill Harlow.

Secretary of State Colin Powell says the Bush administration is "examining everything: how the CIA does its work, how the FBI and Justice Department does its work, are there laws that need to be changed and new laws brought into effect to give us more ability to deal with this kind of threat ... Everything is under review."

However, as Powell also has noted, the war against terrorists is likely to be a lengthy undertaking. Congress does not need to act frantically in ways that could infringe on the very rights and liberties that the government seeks to defend.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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